Pakistan’s “Love for the Prophet Day” Ends with 15 Dead, 200+ Wounded and Property Mess

On Monday, September 17, the  Pakistan Telecom Authority had ordered access to the anti-Islam film roiling parts of the world blocked from Pakistan.  According to AFP Pakistan, attempts to access YouTube is met with a message saying the website had been classed as containing “indecent material.”

Yet, Russia Today reports that on Wednesday, September 19, several hundred lawyers (good grief, lawyers!) protesting over this same film now blocked in Pakistan have broken into the Diplomatic Enclave in Islamabad that houses the US Embassy and other foreign missions. The report says that police stopped the demonstrators before they could reach the US Embassy, which is surrounded by another set of high walls and protected by security guards. Protesters chanted slogans such as: “Down With America” and “Whoever is a friend of America is a traitor” as they forced their way through a gate into the enclave.

I saw the lawyers’ protest and thought ominous this development.  Because if we could not expect lawyers, officers of the legal system to exercise prudence and restraint in the face of some great perceived offense, what can we expect from non-lawyers?

Today, September 21, officially declared a national Pakistani holiday – the “Love for the Prophet Day”, shows just what a mob of 10,000 in the capital city of Islamabad, 15,000 in Karachi and more in Lahore and Peshawar can do when it wants to burn down its own house in rage.

The Express Tribune reports on the September 21 protests across Pakistan over an anti-Islam film which descended into riots resulting in several deaths, scores wounded and loss of properties:

Youm-e-Ishq-e-Rasool (pbuh) [love of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) Day] was observed throughout Pakistan on Friday on the orders of the Government of Pakistan, condemning the anti-Islam film.

After Friday prayers, protests erupted in several cities across the country which soon turned violent. As the police remained unable to control the protesters, a loss to life and property was reported.

A total of 15 people were killed across the country and more than 200 were wounded during the protests. Cinemas, banks, vehicles and fuel stations were torched, while markets were also vandalised.

Two police officials were also killed during clashes in Karachi.

The central leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUI-F) Maulana Fazal Rehman commended the nation over successful protests across the country against the anti-Islam film.

People have died and it’s a success. I must confess that efforts to wrap my head around that one has so far been a failure.

An Express Tribune commenter snarkily writes:

“Somebody insulted me today. I am going to go home and burn it down. Now, someone will think twice about insulting me.”

Below is a video clip from GlobalPost’s Karachi-based journalist Mariya Karimjee with Breaking News Editor Hanna Ingber, giving her insights into how the Pakistani government and political parties have encouraged the anti-US protests.  Read more: http://bit.ly/QrRNxS

The AP  reports that the deadliest violence occurred in Karachi, where 12 people were killed and 82 wounded.  Armed demonstrators among a crowd of 15,000 reportedly fired on police, and the mob apparently burned down two cinemas and a bank.

In Peshawar, three people were killed and 61 were wounded.  Police fired on rioters who set fire to two movie theaters and the city’s chamber of commerce, as well as damaged shops and vehicles.

The report also says that police clashed with over 10,000 demonstrators in several neighborhoods, including in front of a five-star hotel near the diplomatic enclave in Islamabad where the U.S. Embassy and other foreign missions are located.

I have it in good authority that the members of the US Mission Pakistan including those in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar are all safe and accounted for.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani U.N. Ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon went on CBS News and told Pamela Falk that if the U.S. wants to stop the attacks against American embassies, to “just lay off our Prophet, just lay off our Prophet. Is that too much to ask?” Which makes perfect sense, of course, as the US Government can just send a mass email to all American citizens, including our own idiots to lay off, right?  He works at the UN, in New York, and this shows real understanding of the United States.  And if that is not enough, he adds:

“Is what happened in Pakistan a manifestation of the people of Pakistan? Yes. Of the government of Pakistan? No,” Haroon said. “If the government of Pakistan was acquiescent of what is happening in Pakistan [the violence], they wouldn’t be firing teargas and bullets at the protestors.”

Diiiiiinnnnnnnngggggg! And he totally missed his chance to explain to the American public that his country has a population of over 180 million people and that the mob protesters rounded up to say 30,000 only accounts for  — wait for it —

0.0001666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666 ….

of its total population.

Because that’s what any well-trained diplomat would have done.  Instead, he  lumps all Pakistanis, all 180 million of them with a rampaging mob,  a deadly minority.   I’m baffled by such diplomatic eloquence.

 

 

 

 

 

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More Protests Expected, Post Closures: Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, Japan, HK, Lebanon, Pakistan

We’re trying to keep up with the protests breaking out across the globe over the anti-Islam movie. Here is what we know based on publicly available information:

Malaysia:   US Embassy Kuala Lumpur informs U.S. citizens of planned demonstrations on Friday, September 21, 2012. It says the embassy is not aware of specific threats to U.S. citizens in Malaysia at this time but will close to the public on mid-day tomorrow.

The U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur has been informed by the Royal Malaysian Police that demonstrations are scheduled to take place in the afternoon on  Friday, September 21, 2012 at the following locations:   on Jalan Tun Razak in the vicinity of the Embassy;  in front of the Tabung Haji Mosque and proceed by foot to the vicinity of the Embassy; in the vicinity of Jamek Kampung Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, approximately 3 kilometers north of the U.S. Embassy on Jalan Raja Abdullah;  at the  Taman Perling Mosque in Johor Bahru, Johor state;  and at all district mosques in Sabah state.  U.S. citizens are advised to avoid all areas noted above in Kuala Lumpur on Friday afternoon.
From noon until late afternoon on Friday vehicular and foot traffic in the area around the U.S. Embassy will be disrupted.  Given the uncertainty inherent in this situation, the Embassy will close to the public at 11 a.m.   Visa and American Citizens Services appointments scheduled for the afternoon of September 21 will be rescheduled for later dates.  In the event of an emergency, U.S. citizens may call (03) 2168-5000 at any time.   The Embassy plans to re-open for normal business on Monday, September 24.

Indonesia: US Embassy Jakarta informs U.S. citizens of the continuing closure of APP Medan, and closure of US Embassy Jakarta and USCG Surabaya on September 21, 2012:

The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, the U.S. Consulate General in Surabaya, the American Presence Post in Medan, the U.S. Consular Agency in Bali, and the U.S. Mission to ASEAN will be closed tomorrow, Friday, September 21 because of the potential for significant demonstrations that might be held in front of these facilities.  The American Presence Post in Medan continues to be closed today, September 20. We apologize for any inconvenience. We advise, as always, that people should avoid large crowds and other gatherings that might turn violent. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide further updates, if needed.

Australia: US Consulate General Sydney informs U.S. citizens of possible new protests in Sydney and Melbourne on September 22, and September 23.

Sydney law enforcement authorities have advised of possible anti-American demonstrations in Sydney for Saturday, September 22 and Sunday, September 23.   U.S. citizens should avoid Sydney’s Hyde Park and its perimeter area and Martin Place on both Saturday, September 22 and Sunday, September 23.  Previous demonstrations in Sydney on September 15, 2012 occurred in Martin Place and Hyde Park and turned violent.

Melbourne law enforcement authorities have also advised of possible anti-American protests in downtown Melbourne on Saturday, September 22 and Sunday, September 23.  Should they occur, U.S. citizens should avoid the immediate demonstration areas.

Nepal: US Embassy Kathmandu informs U.S. citizens of a planned demonstration on September 21.

A demonstration is planned for Friday, September 21 in the area of Ratna Park in Kathmandu in the early afternoon (1 pm or sometime thereafter).  (Ratna Park is located in central Kathmandu, approximately one mile south of Thamel, an area popular with backpackers and other tourists, and about a half mile east of Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, another popular tourist destination.)  Ratna Park is a major transit point for local public transportation buses, so a demonstration in the area could cause traffic disruption.

Japan: US Embassy Tokyo notifies U.S. citizens of planned demonstrations on September 21.

The Embassy has been advised that there will be a demonstration starting in the Shibuya area and arriving at the U.S. Embassy at approximately 4:00PM on Friday, September 21. The Government of Japan has designated the Japan Tobacco (JT) building as the designated location near the U.S. Embassy for these demonstrations to gather legally and peacefully.

China: US Consulate General Hong Kong informs US citizens in Hong Kong of planned demonstration this weekend:

The U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong informs U.S. citizens that local Muslim leaders have announced plans for peaceful demonstrations to take place in Chater Garden in Central in the early afternoon of Sunday, September 23. Consulate General personnel have been instructed to avoid the immediate area around Chater Garden on Sunday, September 23, and we advise you to avoid the area also.

Pakistan: The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad and Consulates in Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar will be closed tomorrow (Friday, September 21). The Government of Pakistan yesterday officially declared September 21 a Love for Muhammad Day, a national holiday (see more below).

Meanwhile, the State Department has issued updated Travel Warnings for both Lebanon and Pakistan:

Travel Warning Lebanon: September 17, 2012

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon because of current safety and security concerns. U.S. citizens living and working in Lebanon should understand that they accept risks in remaining and should carefully consider those risks. This supersedes the Travel Warning issued on May 8, 2012, to emphasize information on security, kidnappings, and an upsurge in violence in Lebanon and the region.
[…]
The Fulbright and the English Language Fellow programs that provided grants to American scholars to live and work in Lebanon during the academic year have been suspended in country because of the deteriorating security situation and the increased possibility of attacks against U.S. citizens in Lebanon.

Travel Warning Pakistan | September 19, 2012

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Pakistan.
[…]
Movements by U.S. government personnel assigned to the Consulates General are severely restricted. U.S. officials in Islamabad are instructed to limit the frequency of travel and minimize the duration of trips to public markets, restaurants, and other locations. Only a limited number of official visitors are placed in hotels, and for limited stays.  Depending on ongoing security assessments, the U.S. Mission sometimes places areas such as hotels, markets, and restaurants off limits to official personnel.
[…]
There have been several terrorist attacks in the past few years, targeting civilians and security personnel. On September 3, 2012, unidentified terrorists attacked a U.S. government vehicle convoy in Peshawar, injuring U.S. and Pakistani personnel.  On April 24, 2012, an explosion at the Lahore Railway Station killed three people and injured at least 30.  On April 5, 2012, a suicide bomber attacked a police vehicle in the Malir Area of Karachi, not far from the airport, causing a number of deaths. On November 16, 2011, a vehicle driven by suicide bombers exploded in the Defense Area of Karachi, killing the three bombers and two police officers. On May 20, 2011, a U.S. Consulate General vehicle in Peshawar was attacked, killing one person and injuring a dozen, including two U.S. employees of the Mission. On April 5, 2010, terrorists carried out a complex attack on U.S. Consulate General Peshawar, with several Pakistani security and military personnel killed or wounded.  On February 3, 2010, ten persons, including three U.S. military personnel, were killed and 70 injured in a suicide bombing at a new girls’ school in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

A side note here.  Pakistani news report that the Federal Cabinet meeting on Wednesday has decided “to observe September 21 as ‘Ishq-e-Rasool (pbuh)’ day to express reverence for Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) and register the government’s protest against the recently released anti-Islam film in the US.” The day has been declared a national holiday.

Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, addressing the Cabinet meeting, was quoted as saying: “At this moment, I call upon the people of Pakistan to register their protests peacefully but to observe restraints and not to damage their own property.”

On Radio Pakistan, Interior Minister Rehman Malik has reportedly said that special security arrangements will be made on Friday on the occasion of “Day of Ishq-e-Rasool and that no one will be allowed to take the law into his own hands and damage private or public properties during the protests.

SFRC Clears Villarosa, Liberi, Mull, North, Olson, Macmanus with Looming Senate Holds

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee(SFRC)  cleared the following ambassadorial nominations on September 19, 2012.

  • Sharon English Woods Villarosa, of Texas, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Mauritius, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Seychelles.
  • Dawn M. Liberi, of Florida, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Burundi.
  • Stephen D. Mull, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Poland.
  • Walter North, of Washington, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Papua New Guinea, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Solomon Islands and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Vanuatu.
  • Richard G. Olson, of New Mexico, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
  • Joseph E. Macmanus, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Representative of the United States of America to the Vienna Office of the United Nations, with the rank of Ambassador.
  • Joseph E. Macmanus, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Representative of the United States of America to the International Atomic Energy Agency, with the rank of Ambassador

Two nominees for UNGA were also cleared:

The Honorable John Hardy Isakson, of Georgia, to be a Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-seventh Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy, of Vermont, to be a Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-seventh Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

The nominations will now go to the Senate for the full vote.

The SFRC, by the way,  just held its confirmation hearing for Ambassador Robert Beecroft (US Embassy Iraq) on September 19, so he was not included in the cleared nominees on Wednesday.  The Cable says that according to committee aides, “there was broad support for dispatching the Beecroft nomination out of committee without a formal vote so he could be confirmed this week before the Senate leaves town.”

However, all these nominees could get entangled in Senator Rand Paul’s hold.  He has reportedly placed a hold on the Olson nomination over Pakistan’s Afridi case. And according to The Cable, there is also the the ongoing dispute between Senate leadership and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) over Paul’s demand for a floor vote on his amendment to cut off all U.S. aid to Pakistan, Libya, and Egypt.

We don’t think Dr. Afridi should be in jail, but taking away what, $33 million from over a billion US aid to Pakistan, and a very public congressional pressure to released the good doctor — is not going to help much. No country, particularly one like Pakistan would like to be seen as publicly relenting to such foreign pressure, especially one coming from the United States, a perceived enemy by a great number of its population. To do so is contrary to the laws of political self preservation.  Can you imagine any US President acceding to a foreign senator’s demand to release a prisoner from one of our jails?  Of course not.

Senator Paul says, “If Pakistan wants to be our ally — and receive foreign aid — then they should act like it, and they must start by releasing Dr. Afridi.” He has more here.

Even if the elected Government of Pakistan may be amendable to releasing Dr. Afridi, it would be foolish to do so now, in the most public way. Or if it does, and it falls, who would we have next to deal with?

If screaming from the Senate chamber works perfectly in conducting foreign relations, why the heck do we have a diplomatic corps?  More congressional shock and awe is not going to help the cause of Dr. Afridi, it just drags it longer.  Senator Paul should understand this.  It’s not about him, it’s about them.  He should lift his hold so Ambassador Olson can join his embassy in Islamabad and our diplomats can do the work they need to do.

 

 

Protests Spread, Embassy Warnings and Temporary Suspension of Public Services

The Atlantic Wire’s John Hudson mapped on Google the protests breaking out across the globe due to a 14-minute YouTube clip of an anti-Muslim movie.   The protests are directed primarily against U.S. embassies, but also against institutions and businesses like the American International School in Tunis (burned and looted, also photos here of the US Embassy Tunis from an Arabic website), and the Kentucky Fried Chicken and Hardee’s in Lebanon (burned and ransacked).

The British and German Embassies in Khartoum, Sudan were attacked, and there were reported protests as far away as Kashmir and Kut and also against the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, the United States protecting power in Iran.

Over the weekend, there were also protests in Adana and Istanbul in Turkey,  in Chisinau, Moldova and in Sydney, Australia.  It looks like the protesters range in number from as small as 30 individuals to as much as 2,000.

Map of Muslim Protests via The Atlantic Wire
(click on map to view the large interactive map)

Several posts overseas have announced temporary closure and suspension of services.

The US Embassy in Yemen sent an Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens in Sana’a informing them of continuing demonstrations in the vicinity of the embassy, and consular services closure through Saturday, September 29.

US Mission Pakistan issued an Emergency Message for U.S Citizens in the country announcing the temporary suspension of consular services in Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi on September 17  due to the potential for demonstrations in the vicinity of the Embassy. A second message informs U.S. citizens living in Pakistan that the U.S. government has instituted travel restrictions for its employees throughout the country. U.S. government employees can now undertake essential travel only, including within the cities of Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, and Peshawar, due to possible demonstrations moving along major routes.

US Embassy Tunisia announced that the embassy, including the Consular Section and American Citizen Services (ACS), will be closed to public access on September 17, 2012.

US Mission India announced that due to planned demonstrations in New Delhi and Kolkata on September 18, 2012, the American Center including the library and USIEF in the two cities will be closed.

Other posts have issued warning messages of possible protests:

In Azerbaijan, the U.S. Embassy Baku informs U.S. citizens of a planned demonstration in front of the U.S. Embassy at 3:00 pm on Monday, September 17.  The demonstration is assumed to be connected to other anti-American demonstrations ongoing worldwide.

US Embassy Lebanon issued an Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens on “the reaction to the controversial film and internet event and says that “The U.S. Embassy in Lebanon is concerned about the continued threat of demonstrations, and other violent actions against U.S. interests in Lebanon.” The AP’s Matt Lee reports that “A State Department status report obtained Monday by The Associated Press said the Beirut embassy had “reviewed its emergency procedures and is beginning to destroy classified holdings.”

Here is part of the Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens from the US Embassy Jakarta on 9/17/2012:

“The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia has been informed of planned demonstrations in Jakarta and Medan. Today, Monday, September 17 there will be a demonstration in Jakarta starting at 12:00pm. Approximately 1,000 people are expected to march from the Hotel Indonesia Circle outside of Grand Indonesia to the U.S. Embassy. A demonstration also started in Medan today at around 9:00am. Another protest is planned in Medan for tomorrow, Tuesday September 18. The U.S. Embassy has been informed by the Indonesian National Police that approximately 150 police will be present in Medan and approximately 1,500 police will be present in Jakarta during the demonstrations. We advise, as always, that people should avoid large crowds and other gatherings that might turn violent.”

US Embassy Conakry informs U.S. Citizens of anti-American demonstration at the U.S. Embassy on Monday, September 17. Embassy staff have been told to remain at home Monday morning. U.S. citizens are urged not to attempt to come to the Embassy. The American International School was also closed on Monday.

In Afghanistan, the US Embassy in Kabul restricted travel for Chief of Mission personnel across Afghanistan until further notice.

USCG Peshawar: Suicide Car Bomb Targets Consulate Car, Wounds Four Staff and More (Updated)

The AP is reporting that a suicide car bomb hit an armored SUV of the US Consulate General in Peshawar.  The attack reportedly killed two Pakistanis and wounded 19 other people, including two American personnel and two local staff of the consulate, as well as policemen who were protecting the Americans.

Updated @6:49 pm PST: Our source from the US Embassy in Islamabad says that the four were in the vehicle and were saved by accompanying local police who pulled them out after the attack – two Americans and two Pakistanis were slightly wounded.  One American is in a hospital in Islamabad but injuries are not life-threatening.  All four are part of the Diplomatic Security (Regional Security Office) at the Consulate General in Peshawar.

Excerpt via ctvnews.ca:

The armored SUV from the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar was attacked as it traveled through a heavily guarded area of the city that hosts various international organizations, including the United Nations. It was unclear how the bomber penetrated the area and knew which vehicle to attack.

The car driven by the bomber was packed with 110 kilograms (240 pounds) of explosives, police said. The blast ripped apart the SUV – tossing its engine at least 6 meters (20 feet) away – and started a raging fire. Rescue workers and residents rushed to put out the fire and pull away the dead and wounded. All that was left of the SUV was a charred mass of twisted metal with a red diplomatic license plate.

Local news says that the  US consulate vehicle was at Abdara Road in University Town when targeted by the car bomb. The explosion reportedly left a crater in the road and destroyed a Jeep, damaging two others and demolishing the facing walls of four nearby houses.

Department of State Spokesperson Toria Nuland confims that four consulate staff were wounded in the attack:

“We can confirm that a vehicle belonging to the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar was hit in an apparent terrorist attack. Two U.S. personnel and two Pakistani staff of the Consulate were injured and are receiving medical treatment. No U.S. Consulate personnel were killed, but we are seeking further information about other victims of this heinous act.”

U.S. Embassy Islamabad also released the following statement by Charge d’affaires Ambassador Richard Hoagland:

“I am grateful for the humane professionalism of the local Pakistani security forces who saved the lives of the two American Diplomats and two Pakistani local staff of the U.S. Consulate General Peshawar by pulling them to safety after their vehicle was attacked. In this dangerous world where terrorists can strike at any moment, we must all work together – Pakistanis and Americans alike – because we have a strong mutual interest in defeating terrorism.”

Peshawar, Afghanistan’s Near Abroad and a Recommendation of Possible Closure

In May 2012, State/OIG released its Compliance Follow-up Review of the US Mission in Pakistan. In that CFR, the inspectors points out that Peshawar remains the most dangerous post in the Foreign Service and that it should be viewed not just as a dangerous consulate general in Pakistan but what it termed as “Afghanistan’s near abroad,” that is, a location similar to one of the provinces of Afghanistan without the NATO coalition forces.

By all calculations, Peshawar is the most dangerous post in the Foreign Service. The OIG team believes strongly that Peshawar should be viewed as “Afghanistan’s near abroad” rather than a dangerous consulate general in Pakistan. The conditions are analogous to those faced in one of the provinces of Afghanistan, without the benefit of North Atlantic Treaty Organization security. The consulate general is located in the former consul general’s residence on a Pakistani military cantonment. Security is so dire that employees are frequently required to sleep in their offices on the very confined consulate compound rather than travel to their residences in town. Despite this situation, the employees have an unflagging commitment to the mission and good morale bolstered by a sense of teamwork. Given the U.S. Government’s commitment to our continued presence in Peshawar, it is critical that more be done to assist these beleaguered personnel. They are under constant threat of terrorist attacks and harassed by local government agents, it is difficult to impossible for them to travel in the region and their present existence is analogous to a state of siege.

It appears that the OIG team also made a recommendation about the possible closure of the Consulate General in Peshawar but since it is in the security annex, presumably in the classified portion of the report, we don’t know the actual wording of the recommendation except for the following contained in the publicly released report:

Of the 27 informal recommendations in the security annex, all but 1 was closed by the CFR. Informal Recommendation 19 regarding the ability of Consulate General Peshawar to develop a way to drawdown in the event of a catastrophic incident needs to be reevaluated. It was not reissued as a formal recommendation; however, a new recommendation regarding the possible closure of Consulate General Peshawar was added.

We have a separate post drafted on the newly arrived CG in Peshawar from last week that we have not been able to post due to duties beyond this blog.  We hope to have that up in a bit.

Domani Spero

Officially In: Richard Olson – from Afghanistan to Pakistan

Ending weeks of rumors and speculation, on July 17, President Obama finally announced his intent to nominate Ambassador Richard G. Olson as the next Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The WH released the following brief bio:

Ambassador Richard G. Olson, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, served as the Coordinating Director for Development and Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul from June 2011 to June 2012. He previously served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates from 2008 to 2011 and as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Brussels from 2006 to 2008.  Additional overseas assignments include posts in Mexico, Uganda, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and Najaf, Iraq.  Additional Washington assignments with the State Department include posts in the State Department Operations Center, NATO Desk, the Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs, and the Office of Iraqi Affairs.

Ambassador Olson joined the Department of State in 1982.  He received an A.B. from Brown University.

If confirmed, Ambassador Olson would succeed career diplomat Cameron Munter who not only presided the US Mission in Pakistan during one of the most turbulent phase of US-Pakistan relation but also became a casualty in the policy debate over covert actions in Pakistan. Press reports say that Ambassador Munter will depart Islamabad shortly and will retire from the Foreign Service.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Deborah Jones, U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait, Richard Olsen, U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and Brig. Gen. Bryan Benson, 380th Air Expeditionary Wing commander walk through the Department of Defense static displays at the Dubai Air Show Nov. 15, 2009. Ambassador Jones, Ambassador Olsen and General Benson took the opportunity to greet some of the Airmen assigned to the Department of Defense static display aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Charles Larkin Sr) (Released)

The good news for US Mission Pakistan —

  • Ambassador Olson is the father of two daughters but there is no mention of a wife in his biography; which probably means, there will be no question on, as the OIG report puts it, “whether she (Ambassador Munter’s wife) is overly tasking and taxing parts of the mission.”
  • Prior to his assignment to Pakistan, Ambassador Olson was the chief of mission at our embassy at the United Arab Emirates.  Apparently, those wealthy and cosmopolitan Emiratis tend to be unimpressed by the U.S. Government-sponsored exchange and other cultural programs, so his new host country where roughly three-in-four Pakistanis (74%) consider the U.S. an enemy, up from 69% last year and 64% three years ago will be a lot tougher but will not be so totally foreign. Of course, they don’t just ignore us in Pakistan, they actually hate us. And he would have to deal with the Pakistani relatives of Michele Bachmann in the conspiracy theory department like this university vice chancellor who sees nothing good coming out of five huge cranes!
  • US Mission Pakistan is undergoing an expansion; during part of his tenure at US Embassy Abu Dhabi staffing there had increased by 54%. The Pakistan mission will be much bigger but he will not be overseeing a large expansion for the first time.
  • After heavy VIP visitor traffic to and though the U.A.E. and US Mission Afghanistan, the VIP traffic to US Mission Pakistan should not be a shocker to the new mission chief.
  • While the OIG reports about official harassment in Pakistan (blog pal says harassment hasn’t been bad at all), Ambassador Olson’s embassy in Abu Dhabi had to deal with Emirate harassment on classified and unclassified diplomatic pouches, including airport confrontations.
  • According to the OIG report, Ambassador Olson and his DCM both scored a perfect five (on a scale of one to five) on the OIG “leadership qualities” confidential survey among non-Department agency heads before the inspection. Even the Department officers ranked the Ambassador and DCM favorably (averaging a score of four on the same scale). The report also says  that “Section chiefs and experienced agency heads unanimously called this the finest embassy country team experience they have had, and voted full confidence in the leadership.”  Perhaps this should bode well for the inter-agency cooperation at US Mission Pakistan?
  • Ambassador Olson also did a “a good deal of public diplomacy work and is seen as an effective and visible advocate by the U.S. business community.”

Finally, and our blog readers might like this — Ambassador Olson is, or was, a blogger. In fact, the IG report says that the ambassador’s classified blog is required reading among the Persian Gulf ’s policymakers, because “it is engaged, energetic, and current.”

Maybe we should pin a note like ? – Dear Ambassador Olson, when are you coming to WordPress?

Domani Spero

Related Items:
July 17, 2012 | President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts

OIG Report No. ISP-I-10-62A – Inspection of Embassy Abu Dhabi & CG Dubai, United Arab Emirates – June 2010

Relates posts:

Related articles

State Dept OIG Reports: Oh, Redactions, Is Double Standard Thy True Name?

On June 21, 2012, the State Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) posted the following report: Compliance Followup Review of Embassy Islamabad and Constituent Posts, Pakistan (ISP-C-12-28A)  [563 Kb] dated 05/31/12.

It made the news cycle for a couple of days because it contains the following:

Official Pakistani obstructionism and harassment, an endemic problem in Pakistan, has increased to the point where it is significantly impairing mission operations and program implementation [(b) (5) REDACTED] The issue of harassment must be made an integral part of high-level policy discussions with the Pakistani Government regarding the future of the bilateral relationship.

That’s about all that was reported in the mainstream press.  But enough to rile everyone up.  Our officials being harassed by officials in Pakistan, the same country which is the recipient of one of the largest aid bucket in recent years.  That’s just really offensive.  Of course, the extra fine details of that official harassment had been extensively redacted in the published report. Which is understandable. With both countries trying to hold on to this extremely difficult marriage, do we really need to pour more fuel to what is already a raging fire.  So we’ll even accept that the redactions were necessary.

We’re slowly catching up with our reading and noticed one other key judgement in that report, as follows:

In the management section, a highly centralized and controlling management style, coupled with the lack of focus and effective oversight from the front office, has had a detrimental impact on the functioning of the mission and the timely delivery of administrative services.

Okay, that doesn’t sound good, particularly because the management section holds almost all the keys to the proper and effective functioning of any overseas mission. An effective management section can help mitigate the fall out from a dysfunctional front office. But a dysfunctional management section can undermine even the best front office; although if it’s really the best, the management section should not be dysfunctional for long.

And then there’s this:

click on image for larger view

Um, excuse me, but why should a delegation of authority from the Front Office of the US Embassy in Islamabad (Ambassadors Munter and DCM Hoagland) to the Management Counselor require the redaction above?

And then there’s this:

The management section is led by an experienced and highly motivated management counselor, serving in her third successive hardship tour. She supervises a cadre of well-qualified and experienced unit chiefs, many recruited by her personally. This team has worked hard to improve management controls and strengthen delivery of ICASS to all mission elements, and the effect of its efforts is palpable in every aspect of management at this mission.

The DCM, as he has with other senior counselors, delegated significant responsibilities to the management counselor.

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Jeez! Even the recommendation had been redacted!

The meat in the OIG’s teaser  of a “highly centralized and controlling management style, coupled with the lack of focus and effective oversight” was effectively erased for public consumption. Because, obviously, the American public cannot handle the truth about bad leadership and management.

We heard talks and separate unconfirmed rumors that the draft report actually included a rather serious recommendation.  The Under Secretary for Management‘s name had been mentioned as well as something about the officer with the redacted name having “a stellar reputation in D.C.”

 

 

我的媽和她的瘋狂的外甥都 Holy mother of goat and all her crazy nephews! Don’t you just hate that? No wonder these bad managers get recycled more often than bottle caps.

US Embassy Beirut Inspection Report: Similar Redactions on DCM:

This is, of course, not the first time that we’ve seen such redactions particularly in reference to the performance of career diplomats. Early this year, the OIG released its inspection report of the US Embassy in Lebanon. The section on the embassy’s deputy chief of mission (or deputy ambassador, if you will) was also extensively redacted. According to the IG report, the US Embassy in Beirut is encumbered by US Ambassador Maura Connelly who arrived in September 2010 and DCM E. Candace Putnam who arrived in June 2011. Wait, it looks like Richard M. Mills arrived in March 2012 as the new DCM at the US Embassy in Beirut, the same month the IG report was released online.

Here is the key item:

Embassy Beirut performs its core policy and operational missions well. However, its substantive strengths are undercut by front office leadership shortcomings [REDACTED].

That’s not the only redaction. Here are a few more:

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And below is one of our favorite portions, because it shows how artfully the inspectors can understate somebody’s micromanagement skill; intense front office attention almost sounds like a talent.

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Frankly, we can’t help but feel sorry for this poor sod working as the management counselor at the US Embassy in Beirut. And unlike the embassy’s CLO (an eligible family member) who called it quits, the management officer is a career employee and must sucked it up if he/she wants to continue his/her career with the State Department.

Because Bureaucratic Life Just Isn’t Fair …

Given the harsh OIG report on the management style of then US Ambassador to Luxembourg Cynthia Stroum (a report that obviously needs more redactions were it not a European post) we asked the OIG about the Lebanon redactions on the DCM’s performance and received the following response:

Whereas the Embassy Luxembourg report dealt with many of the same issues, the geopolitical situation in Lebanon is quite different from that in Luxembourg, and our Freedom of Information Act analysis led to more extensive redactions.

A couple other political ambassadors have also received crazy red ratings here and here.

O-kay! So technically, you can be an ass at any of the priority and hardship posts and the OIG will cover up your performance in blackouts under the guise of something called a “geopolitical situation”?

We want to make sure we got this thing right. So last night, we sent off another email to the OIG asking about the redactions specific to the Pakistan report. We haven’t heard anything; we will update this post if we get a response.

Our main concern about this is twofold: 1) the appearance of a double standard and 2) recycling FSOs with problematic leadership and management skills is not going to make another embassy greener or healthier nor make for better FSOs.  Without effective intervention, they’re just going to make another post as miserable as the last one and impairs the embassy mission and operation. Can’t fix the faulty bottle caps if you just recycle the faulty bottle caps, simple as that.

The OIG slams hard the performance of political appointees and puts it all out to hang for the pundits and their neighbors. And yet when it comes to career appointees, the OIG slams them somehow less hard? Don’t know, maybe the OIG slams career diplomats just as hard in their reports (we want to believe that) but that is hard to know since the details are effectively removed from the reading consumption of the American public with thick, black Sharpies.  As if somehow, we need to be protected from such grainy details.

Oh wait, it’s not really us they  are protecting … but dammit, who …?

Domani Spero

US ConGen Karachi Sponsors 2012 Pakistan-India Social Media Mela

In June last year, the US Consulate General in Karachi sponsored Pakistan’s first social media summit (see US ConGen Karachi Sponsors Network!! Pakistan’s First Social Media Summit). This year, USCG Karachi with USCG Lahore is hosting the 2012 Pakistan-India Social Media Mela at Karachi’s Avari Towers on July 13-14, 2012.

USCG William Martin (look, no tie!) giving the keynote address at the SMM 2012
(Photo from USCG Karachi/FB)

“Building on the energy and inspiration of the 2011 social media summit, American support encourages peace and prosperity in the subcontinent and the region. PeaceNiche organized the content of the Mela, bringing together some of the most dynamic bloggers and social media practitioners on the subcontinent.”

US Mission Pakistan public affairs teams at the SMM 2012
(Photo via SMM2012/Flickr)

More photos of the event available at:

USCG Karachi Photos via FB
USCG Lahore Photos via FB
Social Media Mela 2012 via Flickr

Domani Spero